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You might notice the players participating in a penalty shoot-out at the end of a soccer game with a tied score. If you are unfamiliar with soccer or have not ever experienced a penalty shoot out, it can seem confusing as to what exactly is happening. 

If you are not a soccer player but like watching the sport, it can be more enjoyable to have a better understanding of the game.  A penalty shootout involves only a specific group of players from each team, and particular rules must be followed.

Penalty Shoot Out – Explained

A penalty shoot out is a way to break a tie during a soccer match to determine which team wins. Penalty shoot outs only occur during the knockout phases of soccer competition. For example, penalty shoot outs often occur during international tournaments, like the World Cup or Euros. They can also take place in a club competition like the Champions League. 

A penalty shoot out is used to decide the winner of the knockout game if the score is still tied by the end of regular time or extra time. A penalty shoot out can not happen during the league season because points determine a club’s finishing outcome. 

A regular penalty kick is different from a penalty kick in a shootout, as they are awarded to an attacking team because of a foul that was committed against them in their penalty box. A penalty kick is not awarded due to a tied game.

Who Takes Part in a Penalty Shoot Out?

Only soccer players on the field during the last whistle of the second half of extra time can participate in a penalty shoot out. This can even include the goalkeeper, but it must only be five players.

How Does a Penalty Shoot Out Work?

During a penalty shoot out, both soccer teams choose five of their players to take a penalty. They alternate the order in which team takes their penalty, such as ABAB. Before the penalty shoot out, the captains of both teams meet with the referee to determine which end of the field the shoot out will take place in by doing a coin toss. 

Then, there is another coin toss to decide which team will begin the shoot out. The soccer team with the most penalties achieved after the first five penalties will win the shoot-out. If the score is still tied after five penalties, the teams will continue the penalty shoot out through one alternating round at a time. The team that has an advantage after one of those rounds between the teams wins, which is called a sudden death.  

Choosing Which Players Take the Penalty Kicks in the Shoot Out

Before beginning the penalty shoot out, a team must decide which players will take the kicks. In large tournaments, many players have been preparing for this moment for years. Therefore, the team already has an idea of which players will take the kicks. 

On the day of the tied game, the coach may need to choose different players to participate in the penalty shoot out as some of the planned players could be suspended or injured. There also could be a substitution or a sending-off during the game affecting which players can participate. 

Since the players eligible to participate in the shoot out are only the players on the field at the end of the game, the coach can only choose from a specific group of players, including the goalkeeper. 

Neither of the teams needs to inform the referee in which order the players will take their kicks. If one team has fewer players than the other, the team with more players must match the number of players on the smaller team. 

Format Used in a Penalty Shoot Out

Most penalty shoot outs are taken using the ABAB format. This is where teams alternate between taking a penalty shot, going in the order of player A, B, A, B, and so on. 

More recently, FIFA decided to try the ABBA format during a penalty shoot out. This format was considered to be used during the 2018 FIFA World Cup, but it was ultimately decided against. The ABBA format is built like a tiebreaker. 

While it has not been used as often as the ABAB format, it has been used at the Carabao Club in England and UEFA youth soccer tournaments. 


What happens if everyone scores in a penalty shoot out?

If every player scores their penalty kicks, the penalty shoot out must reset, and they must have a second opportunity to take a penalty kick. This is when a sudden death occurs.

Why can a goalie participate in a penalty shoot out?

A goalkeeper can participate in a penalty shoot out because they are included in the group of players on the field in the last whistle of the second half of extra time.

Who is one of the best penalty takers in soccer? 

Matt Le Tissier, born in Guernsey, is a former soccer player who was a creative attacking midfielder. He spent 16 years at the English Premier League side Southampton and only missed one of his 49 penalty attempts in that time. His fans nicknamed him “Le God”.In addition, he has won eight caps for the England National Team.

Final Thoughts

Understanding who can take part in a penalty shoot out is essential, whether you are a soccer player, your child enjoys soccer, or you are a viewer. The outcome of a penalty shoot out is a tiebreaker, determining which team has won the game.